SBJ/October 15 - 21, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Making yourself invaluable in the property-sponsor relationship

The U.S. economy and, by extension, the sports sponsorship and marketing industries were already shrinking before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Many companies had already reduced travel and business-to-business and corporate spending, including sports marketing, sponsorship, entertainment and hospitality budgets, to ride out what was anticipated to be a rough fourth quarter.

Now it's getting worse. There are 200,000 Americans unemployed today who had jobs Sept. 11.

This ever-widening shock wave is pounding the hotel, restaurant, tourism, cruise line, rental car, convention, trade-show, transportation and meeting/planning industries. Sports properties supported by sponsorship revenue from these industries are understandably nervous.

Many sponsors are itching for excuses to drop sponsorship commitments. Properties that are only beginning to scramble to prove their worth in this dark hour are in deep trouble.

Let me offer five laws of good business for properties and five laws for sponsors. The 10 laws together create a good environment for properties and sponsors to skate through a shaky economy.

First, properties:

1. Continually prove your value in terms the sponsors understand.

Don't make the sponsors do it for you. If you have to spend money on research or compilation of data, or change the way you measure your event, then do it. And make sure it relates to the sponsors' business.

2. Return value to your sponsors year-round.

Does your event pop up for about a two-week period and then disappear? Make it a year-round asset. For example, if you can't come up with 15-20 honest-to-goodness, non-puff news items that keep your event and sponsors in the local, regional and sponsors' trade media year-round, replace your PR staff.

3. Make your sponsor manager and his or her bosses and staff look good.

Simple but true. They may not admit it, but they like this.

4. Know your sponsors' businesses.

If you are an expert on your sponsors' businesses, you will find ways to use your event to bring more value to them.

5. Build a personal relationship with the check-signer.

Who — business unit managers, key execs, brand managers — specifically is writing checks for your event? Where, exactly, is the budget line item that constitutes your rights fees? Are you too chummy with sponsors' day-to-day activation staffs while never having lunch with the big boss? Big mistake.

For sponsors:

1. Challenge your properties and agencies.

Make your properties and agencies prove their worth to the bottom line and their relevance to your brand, product and services. Don't let them develop a sense of passive entitlement with your money.

2. Don't nickel-and-dime properties and agencies.

Give them the assets to get the job done. Set fair measurement criteria. Leverage the property to the maximum extent. Trust them. Don't pull the rug out from under them.

3. Keep the property in the communication loop.

A good property can deliver results to you many ways through product and brand sampling, exposure and face-to-face customer promotion. But the property has to understand your goals. Create a way for properties to stay regularly informed about developments within your company.

4. Track your competitors' sponsorships.

What is Brand X sponsoring? Do you, your agencies and properties have an understanding of the competitive landscape?

5. Give the property time to work.

Do your homework. Pick the right properties. Give a property at least three years to get the job done.

Mel Poole (MP@SponsorLogic) is president of SponsorLogic, a national consulting management and events agency.

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